Roasted Eggplant With Tahini Yoghurt Sauce

September 2, 2013 3 Comments

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I’m sharing a Middle-Eastern recipe with you today. It’s called baba ganoush and a dish of eggplant (aubergine) mashed and mixed with virgin olive oil and various seasonings. The Arabic term means “father of pestle”. Baba ganoush can be an appetizer or starter but also a side dish or salad. It is made of roasted, peeled, and mashed eggplant, blended with tahini, garlic, salt and lemon juice. Cumin and chili powder can be added.

The eggplant is first roasted, then the softened flesh is scooped out, squeezed or salted to remove excess water and then is pureed with tahini. There are many variants of the recipe, especially the seasoning. I learnt this version from a Japanese friend of mine, Maki.

I didn’t scoope out the softened flesh, I served it in the eggplant skin and I made a tahini lemon yoghurt sauce to go with it. I served it with Arabic bread and a big bowl of salad.

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At the end of August we spent a a long weekend with friends at a wonderful place, called Lake Balaton like last year. During the weekend I was responsible for the salads and side dishes to make. I had many helping hands (I needed) to cook everything while I was also nursing my son. 🙂

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Roasted Eggplant With Tahini Yoghurt Sauce

Ingredients (serves 6)

– 2 large eggplants, halved the long way
– 6 tablespoons + 4 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
– 400 g soy yoghurt / yoghurt
– 4 tablespoons tahini
– 1/2 teaspoon cumin
– juice of 1 lemon
– 1 clove garlic, chooped
– 1 small bunch of parsley, chopped
– salt
– sesame seeds, for garnish

Method

Preheat the oven to 200C.

Place eggplant halves on a glass baking pan lined with paper. With a sharp knife, cut crisscross vents about 1 cm (0,39 inch) apart across the flesh. Drizzle olive oil on top, sprinkle with a few pinches of salt, then bake in the oven for approximately 35 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a bowl mix together yoghurt, tahini, 4 teaspoons olive oil, chopped garlic and parsley (leave a bit for garnish), lemon juice, cumin. Season with salt.

Serve the eggplant halves with the sauce, sprinkle with sesame seeds and the remaining parsley. Also serve with pita as a spread or as a side dish with steamed brown rice and salad.

Vegan Blackberry Smoothie

August 22, 2013 1 Comment

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I never do fruit smoothie with dairy products (i.e. with cow milk products). I read in a few books that mixing fruits and dairy products doesn’t make good to your body (although you think you drink something healthy, don’t you?). Fruits are either sweet or sour but they definitely contain acid and sugar.

“If you add acid to milk, be it from a sweet fruit like strawberry or a sour one like lemon, it will curdle. Weak acids (like those in sweet fruits) don’t instantly curdle the milk but if you let it sit for too long before drinking it, then by the time it gets into your stomach, it will be.

Milk is actually not digested in the stomach, but in the small intestine by the enzyme lactase. When you drink it on its own, its presence in the stomach does not stimulate gastric secretion. Carbohydrates in fruits are also not digested in the stomach – the breakdown starts in your mouth by the salivary amylase and when it gets in to the stomach, digestion is stopped because the enzyme is denatured by the acidity of the gastric juices. The primary function of the stomach is to churn up all the food into a mush, so that when it enters the small intestine (primary site of digestion) it will have a bigger surface area for the digestive enzymes to work on. “

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“So milk will curdle when mixed with fruit and will slow digestion, therefore creates stasis and fermentation, which leads to feeling heavy and gassy. The stomach in its normal state contains a small amount of acid, which will curdle the milk on its way down anyway, so fruit juices simply facilitate or supplement the action of the gastric juices.If it curdles too much before you even put it in your mouth, and your gastric condition is not ideal, therefore can’t churn it.” (Source: Notions & Notations of a Novice Cook)

So I’m saying it’s better to make fruit smoothies with non-dairy milks like almond, hemp, rice, oat or soy milk. Let’s give them a try!

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Vegan Blackberry Smoothie

Ingredients (serves 2)

– 250 g blackberry
– 500 ml rice milk (or any other non-dairy milk, like soy, almond or oat)
– 1 banana
– 3 tablespoons almond butter

Method

Place all ingredients in the blender and process for 5 minutes, until smooth. If you find it too thick, add more rice milk.

Pistachio & Vanilla Bean Shortbread Cookies From Aran Of Cannelle Et Vanille Blog

August 9, 2013 4 Comments

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I found Aran‘s beautiful award-winning blog, Cannelle et Vanille on the internet a few years ago. I fell in love with it for the first time. I remember I saved so many recipes to make them (I did a few of them! :)). Even though I love her gluten-free recipes and travel stories, I always go back to her blog because of the breathtaking photos. I learn so much about food styling and photograpy just looking at Aran’s pictures.

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When I asked her to guest post on my blog I didn’t know how she will react. As I expected she was so nice and happy to help me out. She told me she was very busy with a big move (from Florida to Seattle) and travelling to teach at different workshops (one of my dreams is to participate in one!) but she would try her best!

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Here she is sharing one of her cookie recipes from her first incredibly photographed cookbook, Small Plates & Sweet Treats. Aran says: “This shortbread gathers two of my favorite ingredients – pistachios and vanilla beans – in one treat. They are coated in powdered sugar while warm, which creates a slightly creamy coating. I make batch after batch of these during the holiday season. They are great to give as gifts.”

Pistachio & Vanilla Bean Shortbread Cookies

Ingredients (makes about 50 cookies)

– 1 cup (140 g) superfine brown rice flour
– 1/2 cup (80 g) potato starch
– 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons (70 g) gluten-free oat flour
– 1/4 cup (30 g) tapioca starch
– 1 teaspoon salt
– 1/2 cup (80 g) unsalted natural pistachios
– 16 tablespoons (225 g) unsalted butter, room temperature
– 3/4 cup (90 g) powdered sugar, plus more for dusting, sifted
– 1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise and seeds scraped

Method

In a medium bowl, whisk toether the superfine brown rice flour, potato starch, oat flour, tapioca starch and salt. Measure 1 tablespoon of this flour mixture and add it to a food processor along with the pistachios. Pulse until the pistachios are ground to a fine powder.

Combine the soft butter, powdered sugar and vanilla seeds in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Turn the mixer on low speed for a few seconds so the powdered sugar doesn’t fly everywhere. Increase the speed to medium-high and cream together until light, about 2 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and the paddle.

Add the dry ingredients along with the ground pistachios to the mixer bowl. Mix until the dough comes together; it will be a sticky dough. Turn the dough out onto a work surface and shape it into a log that is approximately 13 inches long and 2 inches in diameter. Wrap the log in parchment and roll it, trying to make it as round as possible. Refrigerate the dough for at least 1 hour.

Preheat the ovent to 180C (350F). Remove the dough form the refrigerator and unwrap it. Cut disks that are 1/4 inch thick. Place them 2 inches apart on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.

Bake for 10 minutes, until lightly golden on the bottom, but do not overbake, as they will become very hard. Let them cool on the baking sheet for about 10 minutes. Dust them with powdered sugar. Store tightly wrapped at room temperature for up to 3 days.

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Interview to get to know Aran a bit more…

Where are you from? Where do you live?
A: I was born and raised in Bilbao in the Spanish Basque Country and I currently live in Seattle, Washington.

What is the name of your blog?
A: Cannelle et Vanille.

How long have you been blogging?
A: I started blogging in January 2008, so that if over 5 years.

When did you start cooking/baking?
A: I started cooking and baking very young as I grew up with grandparents who owned and operated a pastry shop. I remember being as young as 6 or 7 and helping my mom in the kitchen. In my late 20s I attended culinary school and worked as a professional pastry chef for 4 years until I had my first son.

Who (where) did you learn cooking/baking from?
A: I learned to cook from my mother and grandmother and to bake from my uncles and grandfather who were all pastry chefs. We lived across the street from the pastry shop so I spent most of my time there with the smell of cinnamon, vanilla, simmering milk and fermenting yeast.

What is your signature dish?
A: Oh that’s hard to answer. My friends really appreciate my baking skills, but they usually ask me to make them tortilla de patatas, which is a traditional Spanish omelet with potatoes, onions and eggs.

What is your favourite vegetarian/vegan meal?
A: I love lentils and I make them all the time for my family, so I would probably say that lentil soup with lots of root vegetables and kale or Swiss Chard is one of my favorite meals. I love soups in general – anything I can eat with a spoon I love.

Where do you get inspiration from?
A: From many different places… the farmers market, restaurants where I eat, cookbooks, other makers and artists, ceramics… It’s endless.

What was the most memorable food you have eaten during your travels?
A: I absolutely loved the last meal I had at Martin Berasategui’s restaurant outside of San Sebastian a few months ago. It took my breath away.

Name three things you always have in your fridge!
A: Eggs, some kind of green like kale or Swiss Chard, and plain yogurt.

Is there a food that always reminds you of home?
A: Yes, tortilla de patatas, leeks and potato soup, arroz con leche…

What would people be surprised to find in your kitchen? Is there anything you want to share?
A: When I have chicken feet in my freezer I know it’s going to be a good day. The best stock to be made.

All photos are courtesy of Aran Goyoga.

Salad Niçoise

July 29, 2013 2 Comments

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Salad Niçoise is a French composed salad of tomatoes, green beans, tuna, hard-boiled eggs, Niçoise olives, and anchovies, dressed with a vinaigrette. It is served variously on a plate, platter, or in a bowl, with or without a bed of lettuce. The salad hails from Nice, on the Mediterranean Sea. This is a vegetarian version without tuna and anchovies (and minus the tomatoes).

It is an exceptional delicious and filling salad – with plenty going on. Come on… give it a try!

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I took the photos before adding the black olives! 🙂

Salad Niçoise

Ingredients (serves 2)

For the salad
– 250 g new potatoes, cut the larger ones in half or smaller
– 100 g French beans, cut into roughly 2-3 cm lengths
– 2 organic eggs
– 1 medium head of a lettuce (I used Salanova), lettuce leaves washed and separated
– small handful of black olives, pitted
– salt, freshly ground black pepper

For the dressing
– 1 clove garlic, crushed
– 2 tablespoons olive oil
– 1/2 teaspoon apple vinegar
– 1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
– a pinch of salt

Method

Cook the potatoes in salted water for 8-12 minutes until tender, adding the beans for the last 4 minutes. Drain, tip into a bowl and leave to cool.

Cook the eggs in a pan of water for 7 minutes. Leave to cool, then peel and quarter the eggs.

To make the dressing, put all the ingredients into a small bowl, season with salt and pepper and whisk until emulsified.

In a bowl add the potatoes, the beans and some of the dressing. Toss gently together.

In another bowl toss the lettuce leaves with a little of the dressing. Arrange the lettuce, potatoes and beans on a serving plate and distribute the olives and eggs over the salad. Trickle over the remaining dressing and grind over some black peper. Serve straight away!

Chargrilled Sweet Pepper And Walnut Dip + The Jewelled Kitchen Cookbook

July 13, 2013 7 Comments

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I remember the first time when I met Bethany (the girl behind Dirty Kitchen Secrets). I arrived to London on a greyish August day in 2011 and I was going to meet Sarka and Giulia for the first time at Sydenham station. The girls were waiting for me and after giving big hugs to each other for the first time, we walked back to Sarka’s place. There she was Beth with her sister, Joslin. Beth was smiling, talking a lot and I found her funny and crazy at the same time. Her liveliness and personality is what makes an impression in you. During the next couple of days at Food Blogger Connect I got to know her a bit better. She was friendly, caring and helpful (and she still is! :)) and we had so many memorable moments along with the other food bloggers that weekend.

She told me then that she was going to write a cookbook about Middle Eastern cuisine. She put so much work and effort in it and finally her book, The Jewelled Kitchen was out in bookstores in Europe and Australia on 4th July (Middle East 11 July, USA 1 October). I was so happy and honoured to be asked by Beth to take part in her virtual cookbook launch. The book is published by Duncan Baird Publishers, photographed by another dear friend, Sarka Babicka. Food styling was done by Emily Jonzen, prop styling by Lucy Harvey. All in all The Jewelled Kitchen is a wonderful, beautiful and great book. “It takes you on an unforgettable adventure of Middle Eastern and North African cuisines. We are all familiar with a few mezze favourites – hummus, falafel, tabbouleh and stuffed vine leaves – but Bethany offers up a whole host of other treasures.”

As a vegetarian I found the book very useful to get to know the vegetarian Middle Eastern cuisine more. There is a whole chapter for vegetarian meals and we shouldn’t forget the delicious mezzes and desserts. There are many recipes in the cookbook I would like to try in the next few months.

I picked this chargrilled sweet pepper and walnut dip recipe from Beth’s book. As Beth says: “…This recipe is traditionally made using sun-dried Aleppo peppers, finely chopped to a coarse paste. These peppers, which hail from Syria and neighbouring Turkey, have a high oil content and a hind of earthy smokiness in their flavour. … It’s lovely as a dip, spread on flatbreads, mixed into hearty stews, or tossed with pasta or potatoes.” I used red kapia peppers to make it.

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Chargrilled Sweet Pepper And Walnut Dip

Ingredients (serves 4)

– 500 g roasted sweet pointed peppers
– 75 g walnut halves, roughly chopped
– 55 g fine breadcrumbs
– 2 tablespoons pomegranate molasses
– 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
– 1/2 teaspoon paprika
– 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
– 1 teaspoon Aleppo pepper flakes (optional)
– 2 tablespoons olive oil, plus extra to drizzle
– finely chopped mint leaves, to sprinkle
– sea salt
– warm Arabic bread, to serve

Method

Slice off the tops of the roasted peppers, discarding any seeds. Chope the flesh finely and put it in a mixing bowl.

Add the walnuts, breadcrumbs, pomegranate molasses, cumin, paprika, cayenne pepper, Aleppo pepper flakes (if using) and oil. Season to taste with salt. Mix well, then set aside for about one hour to allow the flavours to develop.

Put ingredients in a serving dish, drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with mint. Serve at room temperature with warm Arabic bread.

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More recipes from Bethany’s cookbook from fellow food bloggers:

Chickpea flour quiche from Giulia
Slow-braised stuffed squid from Emiko
Eggs poached in tomato and pepper stew from Sarka
Moroccan carrot salad from Karin
Stuffed caramelized onions with tamarind and allspice from Sarah
Lamb rice with cripsy potato base from Sally
Date fudge from Regula